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DATA REPORTING + VIZ
OTHER INVESTIGATIVE PROJECTS
HIGHER ED REPORTING
BUSINESS REPORTING
COURT REPORTING

DATA REPORTING + VIZ


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On Campus, Grenade Launchers and Armored Vehicles

In the wake of the protests in Ferguson, Mo., attention returned to the transfer of military equipment to local police forces. But what about police departments at America’s colleges? This 50-state investigation found over a hundred colleges with gear acquired from the military. After weeks of requests, haggling, denials and appeals, I cobbled together at a respectable list of colleges and the gear they had procured. I also wrote a story to go with it. Colleagues and editors at the Chronicle of Higher Education were very supportive and helped to design a searchable database.

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Thanks to Outreach, U.S. Colleges Enjoy Jump in Gifts From Abroad

In 2003 just 10 American colleges reported to the Department of Education that they had received donations from abroad. In 2012, that number was 34, down from a peak of 50 colleges in 2011. From 2003 to 2012, alumni, corporations, governments, philanthropists, parents, and foundations donated $2.05-billion to American colleges from overseas. But such donations are not without controversy. After 9/11, for example, donations from countries in the Middle East drew concern from conservative and pro-Israel critics, who posited that American universities were selling influence.

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Administrative pay at Webster University

Using data from the Webster University’s 990 Form, I wrote three stories about pay at Webster. One story covered the pay increase disparity between administration and faculty. Another covered the exodus of high-paid administrators retiring or resigning from the university. 990 Form Pay data was available on Guidestar. Hat tip to the Chronicle of Higher Education for the work their reporters did in creating a college-comparison algorithm, which we used to compare the pay levels between Webster and other schools. Click the links below to view the stories and the multimedia used.

Administrator pay outpaces professors’ average salary increases
New IRS filings reveal administrative compensation
2010 administrative pay data for Webster University and similar colleges

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Multimedia: 43 years, 20 properties: A look at Webster University’s residential properties in Webster Groves

Webster University owns 20 houses in Webster Groves — 11 on Catalina Avenue. Almost all of the homes on Catalina Avenue are considered rental properties, according to occupancy permits obtained by The Journal. The university paid $95,965.60 in total property taxes on all residences in 2012, up from $78,063.10 in 2011. The university’s expanding property lines alarmed some members of the community, including the mayor of the city where Webster is located. My colleague and I used BatchGeo Mapping to visualize the properties Webster University owned. With no published materials on national trends, I decided to secure my own.

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Screen shot 2013-06-03 at 6.54.04 PMDatabase: Housing benefits for administrators at 100 universities and colleges

Amid university-wide budget cuts, the college purchased a new house for the provost. Webster spokesman Patrick Giblin said Provost Julian Schuster is provided housing under his contract with the university. The university purchased 8376 Big Bend in September 2012 for $385,000. Using Tableau Desktop, I created a searchable database for readers of the housing benefits for non-president administrators at 100 universities and colleges.

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OTHER INVESTIGATIVE PROJECTS


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The Pitch: Debt Relief. The Reality: Borrowers May Pay More.

While debt relief firms have seen their mortgage and credit card-related business fall in the wake of the Recession, one form of debt remains stronger than ever: student loans. There’s just one problem—the government provides such assistance for free. Despite this, low-info consumers fall for this scam, paying hundreds of dollars for a service they could do themselves.

The Pitch: Debt Relief. The Reality: Borrowers May Pay More.
I Called 4 Companies for Advice on My Student Debt. This Is What I Learned.
A Glimpse at the Connections Among 7 Debt-Relief Companies
Promises of Debt Relief Meet Privacy Concerns

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The cost and benefit of an elite college chess team

Did Webster pay $1 million to bring an elite chess team from Texas Tech? The university declined to address that question, but documents obtained under Texas open records law reveal that is what the coach was asking Texas Tech for before her departure. This investigation, conducted over five months and using multiple open records laws, examined the finances behind Webster University’s elite chess program. The special report was one of the most-read articles ever on websterjournal.com.

$1 million program proposal made by Susan Polgar to Texas Tech, documents reveal
Faculty, students give input on chess program’s past, future
Chess revenue and expense data for top college chess programs
The rest…

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Captured Gaddafi son shares a past linked to Webster University

Gaddafi approached Webster Geneva in February 1997. Gaddafi said he liked the university and wished to stay in Switzerland. Mustafa Zarti, deputy head of the Libyan Investment Authority, the country’s $65 billion sovereign wealth fund, earned his MBA at Webster Vienna. Zarti and Gaddafi met and became friends while the two were studying in Vienna; Zarti at Webster and Gaddafi at IMADEC. In an interview with Bloomberg, Zarti said the younger Gaddafi recommended him for the job of deputy head of the LIA in 2007.

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GRAPHS: Who the Board of Trustees donated to in the 2011-2012 Election Cycle

See which candidates (Presidential, Mo. races for U.S. House, and Mo. race for U.S. Senate) the Trustee members and their spouses donated to during the 2011-2012 election cycle. Information compiled from the FEC.gov, Opensecrets.org and other sources.

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HIGHER ED REPORTING


Screen shot 2013-06-03 at 7.09.00 PMFormer student attends class with pending default on student debt

Unable to find a job, Bill Stephens could not make payments on the federal student loans he took out for his freshman year. If Stephens is unable to make a payment in the next three months, he will default on his student loans. The designation will allow the government to garner potential wages and withhold tax returns from him. The default will also further damage his ability to borrow money to finance major purchases, like a home or car.

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Screen shot 2013-06-03 at 7.09.00 PMCorinthian’s Crisis Raises Questions on an Unprecedented Scale

The “memorandum of understanding” signed by the department and Corinthian, and released on Monday, will give the company immediate access to $16-million in student-aid funds. The money comes as a reprieve to Corinthian, which had said that the financial restrictions imposed by the department, coupled with its existing cash-flow problems, would force the company into bankruptcy.

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Screen shot 2013-06-03 at 7.09.00 PMFixing the Fafsa, a Popular Idea, Makes Its Way to Congress

A two-question application for federal student aid—that’s the premise behind proposed legislation from two U.S. senators who hope a streamlined form will encourage more students, especially those from lower-income backgrounds, to apply for student aid. In a news conference on Thursday, Sen. Lamar Alexander and Sen. Michael F. Bennet outlined their bill to reduce the current, 108-question Free Application for Federal Student Aid to just two inquiries that would fit on a postcard.

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Screen shot 2013-06-03 at 7.09.00 PMKey U.S. Official Wants to Ease Accreditors’ Compliance-Monitoring Role

Ted Mitchell, the under secretary of education, told attendees at a workshop held by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation that accreditors’ acceptance of more responsibility over the years for monitoring colleges had created “complicated expectations for institutions, regulators, politicians, and the public.” Mr. Mitchell, who is the No. 2 official in the Department of Education, oversees all programs related to postsecondary education and federal student aid.

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BUSINESS REPORTING


Screen shot 2013-06-03 at 7.09.00 PMConsultants see demand rise as ACA is installed

Many businesses are preparing for ACA compliance with the help of consultants in St. Louis and around the country. Local consultants, including J.W. Terrill, said their firms had been very busy over the last year as they educate new and current clients on the issues surrounding the law. Lynda Baris, executive vice president with J.W. Terrill, said the firm added several new clients because of health care reform, along with other consulting areas. In the past year, five full-time people have been hired at the firm, Baris said.

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Screen shot 2013-06-03 at 7.09.00 PMEyeing retirement, boomers ready for health care costs

Louis Fischer is keeping a close eye on his expenses after retirement — an event that won’t happen for a few more years down the road. As construction superintendent with hotel builder Drury Development Corp., Fischer started to put money in his 401(k) and didn’t touch it during the 2008 financial crisis. Despite these good practices, Fischer said he will probably delay retirement a few years because of the cost of health insurance and inflation.

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COURT REPORTING


University, Eden look to overturn CUP denial

Webster University and Eden Theological Seminary sued the City of Webster Groves last week. The university and seminary allege the city unlawfully denied the university’s request to use property it had purchased from Eden. Webster had hoped to use two buildings on Eden’s property for university activities and demolish a third. The university and Eden have asked the court to assess the legality of the city’s denial. From the first sign of tensions in 2009 to the 2013 lawsuit, all events were chronicled. We also uploaded the lawsuit documents to Scribd for our readers to view. Click the link below to view the story and the multimedia used.

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Judge sanctions Webster University law professor for delays

“In the court’s view, plaintiff (McCarthy), who is a licensed lawyer herself, has behaved as if the rules of the court do not apply to her.” Among Tracey McCarthy’s sanctions, Judge Charles Shaw fined her $500 and ordered her to pay Webster’s attorneys’ fees and costs related to the delay.

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McCarthy case documents reveal turbulent pretrial process

Tracey McCarthy is without a lawyer in her lawsuit against Webster University. McCarthy, an associate professor of legal studies at Webster, fired her former attorney, Donnell Smith of Donnell Smith and Associates, on July 10 for his alleged failure to represent her best interest. Besides Smith, McCarthy has accused Provost Julian Schuster, Webster attorney Travis Kearbey, case mediator Karen Tokarz and others of unprofessionalism and/or abusive behavior.

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